Letter from Ottawa

with 20 comments

Ottawa bilingual sign

Salut Georges,

You probably remember me: we worked together in another life. We worked weekends and I remember you enjoyed reading the National Post to get angry. I just discovered you blog thanks to the article published in the Gazette and I said to myself: I only know one Georges Boulanger and it can only be him!

So congratulations for your blog, I’ve read a few articles and I found it very interesting. I think we have to tell the Anglos in their own language what the fucking problem is. I’m not sure they’ll get it but if we write in French they’ll say “Oh it’s French” and it stops right there. Communication breakdown.

I felt especially concerned since I now work for the federal government (Oh yes! The superb city of Gatineau) and I work in English 90% of the time. I write briefing notes in English, memos in English, instructions in English, research and analysis in English, etc… My colleagues are all Anglophones, except for the secretaries, of course. Ah, government secretaries have to be Francophones (bilingual, of course) because they are the point of first contact with the public.

French training usually gives rather poor results. In theory management jobs are bilingual but it’s a hoax: once someone has passed their French exam, they can easily never speak French ever again. I do have some Francophone colleagues in other ministries but meetings, even if Francophones are the majority, are in English.

That’s the big problem with Canadian bilingualism: its purely institutional and imposed from above. The reality is that Anglophones (except those who live in Québec, and even then…) have no reason to learn French, so why would they?

Anyway, all this to tell you I found your blog interesting and that I’ll continue following it.

Again, congratulations,


Written by angryfrenchguy

March 19, 2008 at 9:59 am

20 Responses

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  1. what can you expect from government and the bureaucracy, other than good intentions?

    to think someone was paid money to do that. fire the person responsible for wasting taxpayers’ money and the lousy translation. incompetence.


    March 19, 2008 at 8:49 pm

  2. One comment from Tony Kondaks was deleted for factual errors and debating points that were not made in the post (the sophist technique of the straw man).

    Tony, read my post before commenting, or get your own blog.


    March 19, 2008 at 9:51 pm

  3. I wasn’t “deleted”, AngryFrenchGuy, I was censored.

    If I made factual errors or something else that wasn’t appropriate, you can correct me with your own post…or others can do that.

    I will no longer be posting on AngryFrenchGuy.

    I won’t participate if I am censored.

    Tony Kondaks

    March 19, 2008 at 10:08 pm

  4. “once someone has passed their French exam, they can easily never speak French ever again”

    But they still get that bilingual bonus.

    This is the most bizarre aspect of anglo canadian culture, people will spend a considerable effort and time to learn french…. but in real life… they will refuse to use it. A significant proportion of students who went to french immersion can’t even have a basic conversation in french.

    quebecois separatiste

    March 19, 2008 at 10:10 pm

  5. Incroyable !!!!

    Mais pourquoi intedire aux gens de se tenir debout ????

    C’est sur qu’ils nous préfèrent à genoux :).

    Mais je ne comprends pas la nécessité, quelle est l’idée ?

    Michel Lauzon

    March 20, 2008 at 7:32 am

  6. AFG, you write about the arrogance of anglo culture, yet you just censored someone with a differing opinion. This blog is a sham!

    Alex F

    March 20, 2008 at 8:18 pm

  7. Tony is just an instigator, the comments section of this blog are healthier without him.

    Eric Grenier

    March 20, 2008 at 9:29 pm

  8. You can read all about Tony’s thought on all the other comments I didn’t censor. He writes more than I do on this blog.


    March 20, 2008 at 10:10 pm

  9. eric,

    the blog will not be healthier. it will be just be “cleaner.”

    this blog, as agf stated, is not a democracy. this blog is not the messy democracy that we inhabit in real life.

    tony “the instigator” had unhealthy views, opinions and ideas. his future contributions have been pre-empted or “cleansed” from discussion because he refuses to be coerced in self-expression – some people would recognise this as willful assertion of his right to freedom of speech. i will miss him and his passionate defense of freedom. i suspect that in the future you will too.

    many of my friends would argue that it’s better to die standing than on your knees. some would argue that discretion is the better part of valour. some would say that it is better to run away so that you may live to fight another day.

    i may not agree with every last thing tony kondaks has said or the way he said it but he’s my kinda guy and i would fight to the death his right to say it. even if i detested what he said – i would do the same.

    best wishes and good luck to all.


    March 21, 2008 at 3:55 pm

  10. can’t wait till quebec separates so the rest of us can make canada a uniligual english canada. It’s about time the language issue is put to rest. 700billion wasted to try to make canada bilingual. It failed miserably and it’s not as if french will start to suddenly make a comeback in the world. The international business language is english and will remain that way long after a lot of us have left this earth. I have no problem with quebec doing whatever they want, as long as they are not canadian and not trying to push french in canada.



    March 22, 2008 at 11:32 pm

  11. bob you are my friend…. I like ur attitude.

    quebecois separatiste

    March 23, 2008 at 1:53 am

  12. Hilarious. That is the franglais we all know and love!!!Keep it up!!


    March 26, 2008 at 5:46 pm

  13. Bob, your a tool bag.


    March 26, 2008 at 5:52 pm

  14. Oh and “Angry French Guy” You are a tool bag as well for censoring Tony. It seems you are Just like the french language police. Maybe the only way this site can even continue to exist and be relevant is if you comb through all the posts and delete the ones you don’t like: to present the perfect manicured arguments we have all come to know and love …Cowardly behavior…


    March 26, 2008 at 6:06 pm

  15. “I think we have to tell the Anglos in their own language what the fucking problem is.” Yes. Absolutely.

    Describe the problem thoroughly, sparing no detail. Don’t assume that English-speakers will be unsympathetic by default: you will be surprised at how well a nation of immigrants can understand cultural difference.

    But describe the problem calmly, sensibly, reassuringly. Talk about the future, not the past. Talk about solutions.

    Many people in Quebec would vote ‘no’ at a new referendum because they want to keep their bilingual Canada together– call it pride, or nostalgia, or even inertia. But a large part of the ‘no’ vote would come from people who were frightened that independence would threaten the things that they have worked so hard for: their work, their savings, opportunities for their children.

    This is not the “postcolonial syndrome” of a culture that is not confident enough to stand on its own– I’m talking about people who are worried that they’ll lose their jobs, or their house will be worthless, or their pensions won’t be paid.

    It has to be said that Quebec has not been uniformly lucky in the quality of its political class over the last few years. So gaining the trust of the people for something that looks like a grand experiment is that much harder.

    Which is why you have to tell them, in their own language, what the problem is. And you have to make them believe that you will fix it, without taking away from them the things that are important to them.


    March 29, 2008 at 10:03 pm

  16. “I’m not sure they’ll get it but if we write in French they’ll say “Oh it’s French” and it stops right there.”

    And yet you learn broken English and continue to hound us!

    Billy Bob

    March 31, 2008 at 9:03 am

  17. Hound us ? Look who’s talking ? I cannot count the number of occasions of hounding by Canadians. It’s not finished and it will never finish.
    Somebody was paid big bucks to translate the sign.
    “Interdit de se tenir bebout si vous êtes Québécois, rampez, effacez-vous et fermez votre gueule.
    SVP.”Yeah. Typical anglo translation. Sort of funny. It just proves that they have no time and no budgets with that fuckin funny second official language, like Air Canada employees. Nope. Nothing changes.

    Marc Authier

    April 11, 2008 at 7:05 am

  18. So much tiresome whining from the minority province with the enormous chip on it’s shoulder. Maybe if you weren’t sucking the rest of the countries finances dry with all your self indulgent inward looking were so special the country owes us programs, we would have enough cash to make a properly translated sign. Not that Quebecois drivers would actually read it if it was translated properly, I mean,it is playoff season isn’t it? Ever seen 7 to 9 million people display the symptoms of A.D.D simultaneously? Tabernackle!


    May 2, 2008 at 9:10 pm

  19. This discussion is starting to sound like “francophobia” to me… as for the bilingual bonus, you should be aware that after more than 30 years, it is still $800/year… therefore it is certainly not the incentive for civil servants to learn French (or English).

    I work with these people, training them as a matter of fact, and I never saw one who was disgusted by learning a second language.

    However I do agree that they don’t use it once they get their level… why? simply because they are taught “to the tests”… they can hardly speak “out-of-the-box” (meaning outside the “work related jargon” because they lack vocabulary).

    I’m a FSL Training Consultant who “fixes” this problem (problem created by the language schools in Ottawa) when needed… I certainly disagree with the way civil servants are traditionally trained here!

    You should take a look a my blog and spend a few minutes reading about my journey in the “wonderful” world of “language training” within the Public Service Commission…

    As for road signs and postsigns in French around here… I learned how to just ignore them because I prefer to choose my battles and this one “est perdue d’avance”…


    November 22, 2008 at 11:21 am

  20. Are you on fucking crack???

    I am over qualified for the jobs I apply for and since I “DO NOT” speak the as you put it;

    “That’s the big problem with Canadian bilingualism: its purely institutional and imposed from above”

    YET .. I cannot get a job in our government due to this. And funny when I do go in to those jobs with a followup etc .. I find some JR. FRENCH person working the position who can barely speak ENGLISH and if they do they do so with a complete attitude.

    Sorry to burst your bubble but the NON FRENCH SPEAKING, ANGLOPHONE, WHITE is the most discriminated person in the country for ANY government jobs.

    Get a fucking clue.


    December 8, 2009 at 10:07 am

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